Monday night bellydance often starts out with up shimmy, which involves sort of leaning back as you raise your arms in the air and leading with your hips as you swing across the room. It looks very cool when a group of twenty or so dancers does it. We sometimes call it the, uh, snatch attack…you kind of have to see it to understand…and class just goes downhill from there.
Our yoga warmups could be charitably described as suggestive, as we do all the poses that involve sticking your butt in the air or squatting between your wide-apart knees, or leaning back on those same wise-apart knees and then trying to touch your elbows or shoulder blades or the back of your head to the floor. Most of us wear long loose skirts or flowy pantaloons so the effect isn’t as lascivicious as it might be, but man. Still. My favorite warmup starts when Sharon says “Get on your hands and knees” and we do a couple of run-of-the-mill cat-cows, you know, where you sort of arch your back and then round your back over in time with your breath. I would describe the visual effect as along the Ride Me Cowboy Until The Break Of Day lines, especially since everyone always makes all these crazy closed-eyes yoga faces that seem to indicate that, unh, girl, stretching feels so gooooooooooood, oh, yes, right there, yes, right there. You know how it goes. You mind begins to wander a little as you get deeper into the stretch, and then Sharon goes “Okay, rotate!” and while we’re still on our hands and knees we…well, we sort of swing our butts and ribcages in a circle, first one way and then the other. It’s hard to explain and really the best way for you to understand this would be for me to show you right here on the carpet but frankly I don’t think we are at a place in our relationship, the internet and I, for me to be demonstrating this stretch. We’ll sometimes catch each others’ eyes in class as we’re doing it because there we are at eight fifteen on a Monday night in a neighborhood community center on a cold hardwood floor doing stripper moves and it so awesome and oh, yes, yes, right there.
During drills and practice and chorus we’re all concentrating on the parts of our bodies we’re trying to get to move in a certain way and that’s when you start to hear people say things like “I can’t get my chest to go out any further” and “I just can’t seem to shake it!” Dancing in duets or in chorus together can often feel very intense, especially when we’re in a formation where we can see each others’ eyes, and we’ll often debrief about how a song went after it ends, as if we’ve just rolled off one another and are laying in bed all tangled in the sheets. Our cheeks flush and our eyes sparkle as we whisper “How was that for you? Did you like it when I did that one thing? Was I going too slow? Sorry I got off rhythm there for a minute in the middle. Do you want to try it face to face next time?”
Now, I don’t want to support the myth that bellydance is all about sex, because it’s really not. It’s about beauty and power and precision and intelligence and fascination and connection with other dancers and with your own body as a dancer. It’s obviously a very sensual art form, bellydance is (especially tribal!), and anyone who has seen it will tell you that the movement of the hips and ribcage is stunningly mesmerizing…but it’s not a come-on kind of a thing. There are bare-ish bellies, yes. They are bellies of awesomeness and strength and control, all of which can be sexy in their own right, but sex is not the main point. Bellydance is not dirty at all.
Bellydance class, on the other hand, is filthy.